The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities | Events | Hayden White - Masterclass
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Hayden White - Masterclass

Starts Feb 20, 2012 02:00 PM
Finishes Feb 23, 2012 05:00 PM
Venue Room B01, Clore Management Centre
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Free entry; booking required
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Event description

Hayden White - Masterclass

  1. Monday 20th February   2pm - 5pm
  2. Tuesday 21st February   2pm - 5pm
  3. Thursday 23rd February 2pm - 5pm

All the lectures are free and open to all - register here

Historical Event PDF icon
Practical Past PDF icon
Truth and Circumstances PDF icon
War and Peace PDF icon

Theme of the Masterclass:
The question is this: what's wrong with mixing fiction and history?  A number of  post-World War II novels (Beloved, Austerlitz, Disgrace, The Plot against America, The Journey, The Crying of Lot 49, The Untouchable, Shroud, The Report, Underground, etc., etc.) not only mix fiction with history (after the manner of the traditional historical novel of Scott, Manzoni, Tolstoy, etc.), but actually--so it is held--confuse historical fact with literary fiction in such a way as to "aestheticize" history,  "fictionalize" real historical events, and deprive crucial historical events such as the Holocaust of their moral and cognitive significance.

Such a view of the (postmodernist) situation depends primarily on a conception of fiction or the fictive that has been long since transcended in practice by modernist literary writing and in theory by conceptualizations of fiction as a supplement of (rather than as an alternative to) historical (and any other idea of) reality.

To be examined: the epistemic status of fiction or the fictive in the light of modernist notions of imagination, the imaginary, dream, fantasy, and delusion and the relation of these to the novelesque; analysis of the difference between the concept and the figure in meaning-production; the possibility of figurative referentiality, differences between "the historical past" and "the practical past" (Oakeshott), aestheticist ideology (Eagleton), and the like.

Reading in the work of Primo Levi, Benjamin Wilkomirski, H.G. Adler, Sebald, Morrison, J. Ranciere, Isser, Barthes, Castoriadis, Lacan, Althusser, Friedländer, and who knows?  Proust, James, Kafka?  I provide handouts of the passages of texts to be discussed.

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